Samuel Hsu and Paul Jones played duo piano recitals together from 1994 to 2011. Their acquaintance began in 1987 when Professor Hsu became teacher and mentor to undergraduate student Jones at then Philadelphia College of Bible. This recording marks twenty years since that time. Later, for several years, they served together as faculty colleagues. They performed duo piano programs all over the United States and had an enduring friendship until Dr. Hsu's death in 2011. (Individual bios below)
Hymns, Themes, & Variations
classical and sacred music for two pianos
When it comes to color, subtlety, variety, and power in a single, acoustic instrument, nothing trumps the piano. And four hands playing two pianos are arguably twice as exciting and colorful as two hands playing one.
The pieces on this disc span classical and sacred as they highlight music of many lands—from Bach’s late masterpiece Die Kunst der Fuge to Mozart’s Viennese Larghetto and Allegro, to Saint-Saëns’ sparkling French variations on a theme by Beethoven, to Milhaud’s Brazilian samba and the charming Russian waltz of Ukraine’s Arensky. The hymns treated alongside these classical favorites are German, English, and American in origin.
Daniel Barta’s “Variations on ‘Lasst uns erfreuen’” was written for the Hsu-Jones duo several years ago, and it is a perennial favorite in the team’s concert performances. The words regularly sung to this hymn tune were written centuries ago by St. Francis of Assisi: “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluia!”
The descriptive variations are titled individually: 1. Snake, 2. Great Fish, 3. Eagle, 4. Lamb, and 5. Lion. Not only do these titles reflect various “creatures,” but they effectively walk us through the Bible. The snake is associated with the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man, the Great Fish with the story of the prophet Jonah, the Eagle with the great 40th chapter of Isaiah, the Lamb with the Agnus Dei proclamation in John’s Gospel(1:29): “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and the Lion with the depiction of Christ as conquering ruler and Lion of Judah in the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation.
As such, we traverse the Scriptures in musical terms from Genesis to Revelation. More significantly we are reminded of the unified message of the Bible: the hope and means of salvation. The piece starts with the problem of human sin, moves to the promise of redemption, witnesses the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God by Whom we can be reconciled to our Creator, and then gives a glimpse of the heavenly world to come—when all things will be new, the lion will lie down with the lamb, and sin will be no more.
Samuel Hsu was Distinguished Professor of Music at Philadelphia Biblical University where he was a faculty member for thirty-six years. He began musical studies at the age of nine at the Shanghai National Conservatory. He remained in China until the age of 18, when he debuted with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. After earning both Bible and music degrees at Philadelphia Biblical University, he went on to complete his Ph.D. at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
His teachers included Mary Hsia, Virginia Brubaker, Ronald Boud, Erno Daniel, Daniel Pollack, Rosina Lhevinne, and Martin Canin. Dr. Hsu has taught piano department at the Csehy Summer School of Music since 1974. At the university he taught piano and music history. He appeared in recital all over the country including the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and in 2006 performed in Salzburg with Marshall Taylor, saxophone, at the invitation of the Austrian government. The University of Rochester Press published his book, "'Claude Debussy As I Knew Him' and Other Writings of Arthur Hartmann" co-authored with Mark Peters and Sidney Grolnic.
Paul S. Jones served as Organist and Music Director of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia from 1998-2014. His musical studies began at the age of five in the Toronto Conservatory program. He holds graduate degrees in piano and conducting from Indiana University School of Music where, as a doctoral fellow, he studied with esteemed pianist and pedagogue, Menahem Pressler, and was recipient of an Arts Grant in conducting from The Canada Council.
As a pianist, Dr. Jones has collaborated with violinist David Kim, cellist Anne Martindale Williams, duo piano partner Samuel Hsu, and Metropolitan Opera stars Jerome Hines, Sharon Sweet, and Stuart Neill, as well as other artists of renown. He is author of "Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today" (P&R, 2006), and is a regular church conference speaker and clinician. Dr. Jones is president of Paul Jones Music, Inc., a corporation of composers who write new music for the 21st century church (www.pjonesmusic.us). Jones has composed or arranged more than 200 sacred works including "Hymns for a Modern Reformation" with the late James Montgomery Boice and "Hymns of Prayer" with Eric J. Alexander, of Scotland.